Race across the Atlantic : mapping racialization in Africa and the African diaspora

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Pierre, Jemima

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Based primarily on comparative ethnographic research in Accra, Ghana and Washington, D.C., this dissertation is a multi-sited—textual, sociopolitical, and historical—investigation of processes of racialization as they construct notions of “Blackness” for communities in Africa and the African diaspora. I argue that the sociohistorical processes of racialization are such that they render analogous the experiences and relationships of continental Africans and those of African descent in diaspora. I engage both racial formation and African diaspora theorization to stress the political and intellectual import of understanding Black (racial) identity construction within a global context, a context that encompasses not only the “western” communities of the diaspora, but also the realities of peoples residing in the geopolitical space of the African continent. My objective in this project is to examine how racialization works to create global Black identities and the ways these identities are deployed and understood in a transnational context. The dissertation charts an “ethnography of racialization” and each chapter examines a specific site of racial identity formation. This project challenges the commonsense intellectual assumption that Africa and its peoples on the continent do not actively participate (in this contemporary (post)colonial moment) in the global discourses and practices of racial identity formation. It also shows that, as a global and hegemonic phenomenon, racialization significantly links Africa to its diaspora. This dissertation initiates a dialogue that I hope will help us rethink how we conceptualize the African diaspora and anthropological/ethnographic practice by delineating the central place of race in structuring the experiences of all “racializedas-Black” peoples. Thus, the dissertation is significant for African Studies, African Diaspora Studies, racial formation theory, transnational migration studies, and, more generally, anthropological theory and practice. It redirects diaspora theorization to include identity processes in contemporary Africa and, furthermore, it foregrounds the practices of race and racialization that, South Africa aside, have received less attention in the historiography and ethnographic studies of Africa than other processes of identification.




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